According to a couple of rumors on championat.ru, the KHL may lose two of the top foreigner defensemen of the league to the NHL this summer. The Russian website wrote about the possible return of Mike Lundin according to some “insider resourcers”, while during a lengthy interview, Salavat Yulaev Ufa GM Leonid Weisfeld confirmed that Semi Lepisto has offers from the NHL.
At this point it’s hard to speculate about what teams are interested in the two players, as none of the rumors expressly named any of the 30 NHL franchises. Both players have KHL contracts up to Apr. 30. Weisfeld added that he is more than willing to sign Lepisto, but that “everything will depend on the price-quality ratio.”
Both players have past NHL experience. Mike Lundin spent six years in the NHL, competing in 252 regular season games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Minnesota Wild, and Ottawa Senators. After several NCAA accolades, he was a hot prospect in the NHL, even skating in the 2008 Young Stars game, but he never lived up to expectations. A native of Burnsville, Minnesota, Lundin spent his latest three years in the KHL with Barys Astana. He was very good in the league, and participated in the 2014/15 All-Star Game in Sochi. This year he scored 11 goals and 33 points, but the team failed to reach the playoffs.
Sami Lepisto, a native of Espoo, Finland, has less NHL experience, with only 176 games under his belt with the Washington Capitals, Phoenix Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Chicago Blackhawks. After his latest stint in the NHL, he moved to Russia, signing with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He failed to impress, and after half a season he moved to the then-folded HC Lev Prague. He enjoyed more success one year later at Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg, where he spent two season. This summer he moved, together with GM Weisfeld, to Salavat Yulaev Ufa, where he had a breakout season with 11 goals and 30 points, adding twelve points in the playoffs, where he is still playing for Ufa, which is down 3-1 in the conference finals against Metallurg Magnitogorsk. In the only Ufa win in the series he scored a double, including the GWG which you can see in the video below:
Lepisto also won two bronze medals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games with Team Finland. To date, players or agents neither confirmed nor denied the rumors. At this point, it is hard to believe that the players, both aged 31, will sign a new contract with their KHL teams, especially Lundin, however, it will be a long way for them to play in the NHL once again.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso